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South Street Sights, Part 2

Posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2007.

South Street pioneers Isaiah and Julia Zagar.

Isaiah and Julia Zagar came to the StoryCorps booth and talked about how they got married and started in their lives’ work. The couple first met as young artists living on the Lower East Side of New York City. Three months later, they were married and living together. "That gave me a year before I would have to be arrested and put in jail," said Isaiah, who was denied status as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War.

In their first year as a married couple, Julia and Isaiah joined the PeaceCorps. They were sent to Peru where they met artists and craftspeople who they helped to set up systems through which to sell their work. By the time the Zagars moved back to the United States, Isaiah’s conscientious objector status had been approved and the pair moved into a building on the then rundown South Street in Philadelphia, PA. "It was the only place that would take us," said Isaiah.

Isaiah and Julia lived in the top half of the building and opened the Eye’s Gallery in the bottom half. The shop was stocked with textiles, ceramics, and woodcarvings that they had collected while living abroad. For his part, Isaiah began creating mosaic murals using discarded materials, especially glass, from abandoned warehouses in the neighborhood. Forty years later, the shop has expanded to three floors and now carries crafts and folk art from all over the world, while Isaiah has truly transformed South Street into an outdoor museum. StoryCorps facilitators Mike and Yuki visited Isaiah at his studio and toured his "Magic Garden", an art environment he began in 1994.



3 Responses to “South Street Sights, Part 2”

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  • Julia was a good friend of mine many years ago in the late 50’s and I woke today thinking of her and this story corps conversation is all I could find of her. If whomever
    is reading this could forward my greetings and email to Julia I will be very grateful.MF

    Comment from marilun frasca on March 22, 2009 at 2:03 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Great Christina! You can actually hear an excerpt from the Zagar’s interview that aired on Philadelphia’s WHYY. To listen to their story, and others from StoryCorps’ stop in Philadelphia, visit here:

    Comment from Mike Rauch on March 2, 2008 at 2:30 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Thank you for this story. It came up when I googled folk art, Philadelphia, South Street. This helped me recreate the memory of my days in Philadelphia and tell the story of my influences as a developing artist.

    Comment from Christina Yocca on March 1, 2008 at 11:32 am - Reply to this Comment

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